Conservation Update:
Halfway Through 2020

Greg Burke   Website

Taking stock of these unprecedented times and all that our communities and the country have experienced in recent months, it is difficult to believe the year 2020 is only half over.

For ONDA, these events have highlighted the need for further reflection and evolution as individuals and as an organization. And it has required continued diligence as we counter a slew of threats to desert wildlife, watersheds and wilderness.

Ever the optimists, we’re also looking forward to opportunities to improve public lands conservation and management in agency planning in coming months, and pursuing Congressional protection for iconic and irreplaceable public lands and waters across Oregon’s high desert through 2020 and beyond.

Defending our conservation legacy

Even as the current administration has been slow to respond to national crises this year, it has accelerated its efforts to roll back protections for wildlife, wilderness and other public values, curtail public involvement in natural resource planning, and finalize intrusive management schemes that could threaten millions of acres of public lands. ONDA has been heavily engaged in these processes, which range from multi-state plans that limit options for managing wildfire in sagebrush grasslands to efforts to expand motorized recreation on sensitive public lands, lessen environmental review of public lands livestock grazing, and authorize construction of hundreds of miles of fire fuel breaks on wilderness quality lands in the Owyhee country

ONDA will continue to track every one of these proposals and doggedly defend the conservation laws, regulations, policies and programs — including in the courts, if necessary — to protect wildlife, public lands and waters and the public’s right to participate in the management of these unparalleled and irreplaceable resources.

 

voices

Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

“Protecting public land is part of my spiritual being. It’s central to my identity to be in wilderness and to see it protected.” Durlin is proud to protect public lands for future generations, saying, “The highlight of my childhood was our family’s weekend outdoor trips. I look forward to my grandchildren having similar experiences outside in their lifetimes, and it wouldn’t be possible without ONDA.”

fact

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  

voices

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

“I connect with Oregon’s high desert through my feet, my eyes, my sense of smell, and all the things I hear. Getting out there is a whole body experience.” Supporting ONDA, Helen says, not only connects her with wild landscapes, but is also a good investment. “I felt like if I gave them $20, they might squeeze $23 out of it.”

Get Ready to Steppe It Up

Lakeview District comment period opening this summer

Greg Burke   Website

Protecting public lands and waters

ONDA’s years of engagement and enforcement compelled two of these planning processes, in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Lakeview and Vale districts. Over the next six months, we expect the agency to issue draft and proposed plans for these districts that will guide management of more than 8 million acres of public lands for decades to come. While the agency agreed with ONDA that these include millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands, we are concerned the current administration has disallowed BLM from proposing to protect those areas. These planning processes will be a priority for ONDA and our membership for the rest of the year. 

Turning to Congress, ONDA is pursuing not one, or two, but three opportunities to protect wilderness, wildlife habitat and vital waterways throughout the high desert.

  1. We continue to work with partners and Congressional offices to both advance and perfect the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S.2828), unprecedented legislation that would protect more than a million acres of ecologically critical, culturally irreplaceable and recreationally prized wildlands in Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands.
  2. Riding a “wave” of nominations from the ONDA community, we have also been researching, mapping and documenting hundreds of miles of desert rivers, streams, creeks and lakes that our membership submitted for Senator Ron Wyden’s proposed statewide Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation.
  3. Finally, we continue to promote Senator Jeff Merkley’s legislation to protect Sutton Mountain in the John Day River Basin, to the benefit of fish and wildlife, public lands, recreation, local communities and regional economies.
New era for conservation?

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, this week we are celebrating passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate, long-awaited bipartisan legislation that establishes permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and allocates new resources to address critical repair and maintenance needs for facilities in national parks and on other public lands. We invite you to join ONDA in thanking Senators Wyden and Merkley for their leadership on this seminal bill, and urge them to keep pressing for conservation of Oregon’s treasured desert public lands.  

Protecting public lands and waters, conserving wildlife, restoring habitat and bolstering ecosystem resilience to climate change is essential to our wellbeing, for all people, and for the future of our country. Thank you for your continued support of ONDA as we take on the second half of 2020!